Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tackling the Tennessee DMV

Ahhh, fall break. A week provided by the Metro Nashville Public School district to allow us time to rest, re-cooperate, and rejuvenate.

In my case, however, (you had to see this coming) the only thing I managed to finish with was a valid Tennessee state license. And everyone's heard enough horror stories at the DMV to know they should be prepared. But I was exceptionally prepared. As a human with very little free time and very high anxiety...that's kind of my deal.

I started bright and early on Monday morning with my manilla folder of required documents and applications in hand. But come Wednesday afternoon when I closed down the joint and still didn't have a license, I texted Dylan in absolute rage to which he replied, "Have you started live tweeting yet?" because that's how he got through his 5-day adventure at the DMV when he first moved to Tennessee.

Now, as many of you already know, I completely suck at twitter. It's only 140 characters, and wordy people like myself just can't get everything in. I'm actually impressed by people who can tweet effectively. It's a skill set I clearly did not acquire in my millennial education. Anyway...back to the DMV... (see? wordy.) I couldn't complete my DMV experience in 140 characters. Thus, the blog. 

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

So this all started nearly a month ago, when I came home from Target all happy go lucky and 200 less dollars in the bank from when I left my apartment to go to Target. I was on my way to Dylan's for a movie night. But if you know anything about me, "I'm on my way," doesn't mean I'm in my car and driving his direction. It means I've just finished showering, I'm putting on sweatpants, I'm running a clorox wipe over my counters, I'm loading extra dishes into the dishwasher, I'm turning off lights, oh I need a pillow and a blanket for movie night, now I'm putting on shoes, I'm grabbing my purse, and - oh yeah! - I can take my trash out to the dumpster on the way to my car. Then, I'll be on my way. Efficiency, ya know?

Sometimes my head gets in a little more hurry than my body and it doesn't remind me to go slow and be careful. So when I chucked my trash bag over the top of the dumpster, my wallet went in with it. And by the time Dylan (bless his soul) and I could get back there to dumpster dive, it had already been emptied (which, of course, didn't stop us from trying anyway). So after Dylan had suited up in lavender kitchen gloves, wrapped an old t-shirt around his face like a bandit, and explored the depths of the dumpster with no wallet in hand, it was time to start cancelling credit cards and ordering new insurance cards. ATM cards. AAA cards... Cards, cards, cards.

And so let's just recap for a moment:

  • I have tossed my wallet into a dumpster like an idiot. 
  • I have called my boyfriend to dumpster dive like a desperate idiot. 
  • I have lost my rose gold, champagne Kate Spade wristlet. 
  • I have lost my drivers license, which, by the way, is still an Arkansas issued license so my plans to easily get a Tennessee license over fall break have just been ruined. 
  • I have lost all my access to health insurance. 
  • I have lost all access to any money from any bank or any credit card ever. 
  • I have lost TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS in Starbucks rewards. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS. 

To which Dylan says, "Oh hun... You need a drink."

Why yes I do. Let's go get one. Oh wait... I don't have a freaking ID. 

So that was my life for two weeks. Carrying one of Dylan's credit cards and transferring money to it from my bank account until I could regain access to my debit cards. Trying desperately to avoid all possible scenarios where I would need a drivers license or ID while also trying not to get sick or injured because I have no health insurance so my treatment would be at least twice as much and I don't have any money at the present time anyway.

Sub-moral of the story... Don't throw your wallet in a dumpster. It will ruin your life. 

So on week three, it was fall break. I was off work, and I was on a mission. I even had a clearance letter in hand from the Arkansas DMV stating that my license was active and in good standing. I had three forms of identification, legal documents, proof of residency, a newly issued debit card, and I could've sworn I'd be good to go. Of course, we all know where this is going. I wasn't good to go.

So if you ever find yourself in this intensely desperate situation, I've been there, girl. And I'm here to help ya out.

Bethany's Quick-Tips for Tackling the Tennessee DMV

Start early. Be there when they open and allow five business days. You'll probably need them.

Be overly prepared. You will need:

  • a photo ID
  • your original birth certificate
  • your original Social Security card
  • two proofs of identify
  • a proof of residency. (Take mail that is still in the envelope. They don't accept it if there's no envelope.) 
  • an active drivers license in hand (or for those pathetic enough to throw theirs in the dumpster, you need a clearance letter from your original state. But it has to be faxed to them from the original state's DMV. You can't bring one in. You also can't email it to them. You can't even fax it yourself. They think you forged it if you do these things and it wastes two days of your time.) 

Don't go during fall break. The good news is: The DMV is open the same hours as every other working human at a normal business is at work, so if you're a teacher or in some other seasonal occupation, you get awesome time off like fall break to handle these things. The bad news is: every teenager and their dog is there to take their driver's test and it takes for-ever.

Look out for crazies. So this woman comes in and walks up to the check in machine. It asks if she has a Tennessee license, and she clicks no. Then, it asks her to enter her Tennessee license number (which, I agree, is a little messed up considering she just told it she didn't have a Tennessee license, but whatever.). Any normal person would've clicked the I-don't-have-a-Tennessee-license-number in the corner of the screen, but oh no. She walks over the counter, cuts in front of a family of four, and says, "That machine over there needs me to enter my Tennessee license number but I have a license from West Virginia."
"Oh," the DMV woman replies nicely, a rare occurrence at the DMV, "then you can just enter your West Virginia license number."
"But that's not what this says," the woman persists, "It asks for a Tennessee license number."
"Yes ma'am, but if you don't have one, then you need to enter a valid license number from whatever state your license is in."
"But that's not what it says! You need to change the machine!"
"Ma'am, we can't change the machine."
"But you're asking me to lie. I would be putting in a West Virginia license number for a question that asked for a Tennessee number. That's lying. Because I don't have a Tennessee license."
This went on for about twenty minutes before she sat down without a wait ticket number (so who knows if she ever got service or not), and began speaking in tongues. I thought for sure I'd found the perfect significant other for Sheldon Cooper.

Find the eternal optimist. There's always one. In my case, it was a sassy 16 year old who'd just received her first drivers license. "Congratulations!" her grandmother clapped from her seat in the waiting area, "You got your license!"
"Forget that, girl," the girl replied, "it's time to eat!"
They'd obviously been there for awhile.
The girl breezed right past her grandmother and headed for the door, and the grandmother stopped and looked at me just before following the girl.
"Apparently," she said, " you don't have to be a heavy set, 80 year old woman like your grandmother to get excited about food. Learn somethin' new every day!"

Familiarize yourself with the actual process of driver's services. Turns out, the DMV only gives you your license. In Tennessee, there's an entirely separate office in the courthouse that will issue you your car registration and tags, and yes, it is on the other side of town and closes 30 minutes earlier than the DMV. But you can't go there first because you need an active Tennessee license. So don't waste a day trying to do it the other way around like I did. Refer to guideline #1.

If you ever buy a car for your daughter, put her name on the title. I remember looking at my title when my parents first bought me the car at age 16. "I'm a little worried because the car isn't in my name," I told mom. Even at age 16, I was fairly anxiety driven so I worried about things five years in the future like that. "Oh that won't be a problem," she reassured me. Guess what. It was a problem. And we had to email her an entirely separate application that she had to complete before I could finalize my application for Tennessee registration.

Get your car emissions tested, like, yesterday. I'd never even heard of such a thing as required emissions testing but they don't give you any sympathy due to your ignorance. You will need the confirmation page to acquire your car tags after you finish your registration application.

Believe it or not, it could always be worse. "I hate this place," the woman sitting next to me on day five told me.
"Same," I said indifferently at that point in the game, "I've been here five days cause I lost my wallet." (That sounded at least a little better than I-threw-my-wallet-in-the-dumpster.)
"Yeah," she told me, "I've been here for three because my car got hot wired and stolen for a series of bank robberies and my purse was in it."

Just when you think your dramatic tale is the worst...there's always someone who can one-up you. Who knows... Maybe you can search for her blog post on the internet, too.


  1. If your Starbucks rewards were just on a gift card you uploaded to, you should be able to sign onto the Starbucks app with whatever email/password you set up the card with when you first got it. Then you can use the app to redeem rewards.
    I know it's not much, but it's something.

  2. I so appreciate you looking out for me! Unfortunately...I hadn't registered the gift cards on my account yet... So I don't have any identification numbers on the cards to redeem them :/ Thanks for trying to help anyway!

  3. Interesting blog. And yeah I would take your word on that thing where you mentioned that one should never throw my wallet in a dumpster while staying in Tennessee